Massachusetts voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014 requiring certain employers to provide earned paid sick leave to employees. The law will become effective on July 1, 2015. If any of its parts are ultimately declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.
Employers with at least 11 employees will be required to allow all Massachusetts employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. Such employees can earn essentially 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. Employers with 10 or fewer employees will be required to allow their employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. Employees are not entitled to use their earned sick time during the first 90 days of their employment.
Whether paid or unpaid, Massachusetts employees can use earned sick leave to:
• care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse;
• attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or
• address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.
Under the new law, if an employer has an existing paid time off, sick leave, or vacation policy, they will not be obligated to provide additional paid sick time off. A contract, agreement or benefit plan with more generous provisions will not be preempted by the new law.
Like FMLA leave, employees will be able to use their sick time intermittently. Employees will be allowed to carry-over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave into the next calendar year. Upon separation from employment, however, employers are not required to pay employees for unused sick leave.
Employees must make a good faith effort to notify the employer in advance if the need for earned sick time is foreseeable. Employers can require certification of the need for sick time if an employee used sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. However, employers could not delay the taking of or payment for earned sick time because they have not received the certification.
Employers are prohibited from interfering with or retaliating based on an employee’s exercise of earned sick time rights. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating based on an employee’s support of another employee’s exercise of such rights.
If you have any questions about the new law or require a compliance review of PTO policies or employee handbooks, please contact Gareth W. Notis at 617-737-8857.